What's new and different about LEGO Rock Band? It turns out, quite a bit. The majority of the gameplay still feels almost exactly like Rock Band, but the structure of the game is firmly in the LEGO camp. From the very beginning, the humor and charm that we've seen in previous LEGO titles are apparent. Unlike LEGO Batman and LEGO Star Wars, this game features LEGO characters from actual toy sets like the city, pirates, farms, and more. For those of us who grew up with LEGOs, it's neat to be reminded of the multitude of LEGO sets that have been available over the years. Your band members are adorably plastic, and get into all sorts of fun trouble in between songs. The charm and downright cutesiness of LEGO Rock Band will make it appealing to people of all ages.
The LEGO theme isn't limited to your characters and cut-scenes, but is embedded throughout the game, a bit like a reskin of an operating system. One example: instead of earning money, you collect LEGO bits. Scrolling note gems are shaped like 1x2 LEGO bricks. Once you have amassed a huge collection of LEGO pieces, you can spend them on all sorts of things, including managers, new characters, instruments, and the like. Unique to LEGO Rock Band is the ability to buy items to decorate your practice space. If you want a LEGO clock, pirate painting, or sheep, just spend some bits. Your biggest purchases will be different LEGO vehicles to take you around to the next venue. These are very impressive, our favorites including a sweet speedboat and an awesome rocket powered bus.
Rock Challenges are the most noticeable new feature. These are similar to challenges in Rock Band, but related to the story. They spice up the game very well. Challenges come in two varieties. The first are band based, such as the challenge where you play as LEGO versions of Queen or David Bowie. (LEGO Freddy Mercury sure is entertaining for me, but I'm not sure most kids know who he is.) The second type of challenge involve over the top music videos. Your LEGO band arrives on the scene to help some poor city workers demolish a building, or summon a thunderstorm to water a farmer's crops, for instance. They do so by playing a suitable song, and if your performance is good enough, the day is saved. Our favorite was the haunted house, where the adorable LEGO rockers come to play a rousing rendition of "Ghostbusters". Players take turns playing in some parts of these challenges, which is odd, but since the background antics are so fun to watch, you won't mind.
As you'd expect from LEGO, the game is extremely kid friendly. The LEGO characters are as wholesome as it gets. The song list is entirely appropriate for kids of any age, and is full of songs that kids know from recent movies as well as the radio. The game is fully compatible with all your previous Rock Band DLC, but songs that are questionable for kids are not usable. (Yeah, I guess Stone Temple Pilots' "Sex Type Thing" isn't exactly squeaky-clean.) There is a new difficulty, Super Easy, which is just what it sounds like. I'd guess even very young kids could keep up at the Super Easy level. You can disable the kick drum pedal for all difficulties, which is great for uncoordinated children or 35 year old drum god wannabes like myself. There is no online play in LEGO Rock Band, which is unfortunate but probably necessary for a game which is safe for children.